Prosecution casts Elizabeth Holmes as a brazen con artist

Michael Liedtke
Associated Press

San Jose, Calif. – A federal prosecutor on Thursday described Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes as a shameless fraudster who duped investors and patents while concealing dangerous defects in her startup’s blood-testing technology.

Prosecutor Jeff Schenk opened his closing argument in Holmes’ criminal fraud trial by painting a sordid portrait of Holmes, once a Silicon Valley billionaire – on paper – now trying to avoid conviction on fraud charges that could result in a 20-year prison sentence.

Elizabeth Holmes walks into federal court in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021.

Lawyers for Holmes are making make their own final arguments.

“Elizabeth Holmes was building a business and not a criminal enterprise,” said her lawyer Kevin Downey as he began his closing argument.

The trial has been underway for three months, and the jury will weigh 11 felony counts of fraud and conspiracy facing Holmes, 37.

As he methodically walked the jury through the testimony of the 29 witnesses called by the government, Schenk emphasized that Holmes had a critical choice to make on several occasions during her 15-year reign running Theranos. Holmes could have acknowledged troubling flaws in Theranos’ blood-testing technology, Schenk contended, but she covered them up instead as part of her pursuit of fame and fortune.

“She chose fraud over business failure,” Schenk told the jury. “She chose to be dishonest. This choice was not only callous; it was criminal.”

While Schenk made the case for conviction, Holmes peered at both the prosecutor and the jurors from across a packed courtroom in San Jose, California. Just a few feet behind her, Holmes’ mother and current partner, Billy Evans, sat in the front row listening intently, as did her father.

Schenk occasionally played recordings of separation conversations Holmes had with a group of Theranos investors in December 2013 and with a Fortune magazine reporter in May 2014. In both recordings, Holmes makes a series of inaccurate and exaggerated comments about the capabilities of Theranos’ technology and its purported contracts with the U.S. military that never materialized.

In other evidence displayed by Schenk, Holmes distorted the scope and prospects of partnerships that Theranos had allegedly struck with Walgreens and major drug makers, such as Pfizer.